The City That Never Works

Another Great Moment in Crime Fighting.

Upon review by the booth upstairs, Billy Morris no longer sucks. - Walter Novak
Upon review by the booth upstairs, Billy Morris no longer sucks.
Odell and Roseann Jones live on Marvin Avenue, just two blocks from the Second District police station. Since vandalism and break-ins in their Clark-Fulton neighborhood are as common as weekly garbage pickup, they always felt safer with the men in blue near.

Alas, that changed two weeks ago, when they experienced a quintessentially Cleveland moment. Just after midnight, a Ford Ranger plowed into the Joneses' front porch, rocking the house. "We thought it was some sort of earthquake," says Roseann.

The couple found the truck stuck under their porch, smoke billowing from the hood and the horn blaring. Neighbors soon joined the commotion.

But not the men in blue, stationed just two blocks away. Despite three calls, police took 25 minutes to show up. And that was after two cruisers -- sirens off, no sign of emergency -- coasted past the house, ignoring the loud, smoking pickup and the assembled crowd waving for help.

One cruiser drove around the pickup's driver as she was standing in the middle of the street, clutching her head. Another cruiser drove right past Odell -- barefoot and in his pajamas -- as he was chasing the driver and her passenger, who decided to bolt the scene. (They were never caught or identified.)

"I only live two blocks away," Roseann told the dispatcher during call number two. "How hard can this be?" She says the dispatcher called her "rude" and put her on hold.

Odell got a similar response later that morning when he asked for a copy of the accident report. "Check back in a few weeks," he was told. "Maybe we'll have something by then." The Joneses are still waiting.

They've sent letters to the mayor, safety director, and station commander demanding an explanation. Naturally, there's been no response. Roseann didn't even know there was an accident report for her insurance claim until she was provided with one by Scene. "We're a little pissed off," she says. "They haven't told us anything."

PD racist again?
If you believe the critics, The Plain Dealer is swiftly becoming the Strom Thurmond of Cleveland newspapers.

Last week, the paper ran a cartoon by Jeff Darcy depicting a young, wide-eyed black girl running through the street with a message on her shirt: "Don't shoot. I'm a friend of a friend of Mayor Jackson's daughter."

It was a commentary on the death of 12-year-old Cookie Thomas, who was killed September 1 in the crossfire of a Slavic Village dope-dealer shootout. But in this instance, Invisible Mayor Frank Jackson, who treats Cleveland's soaring murder rate as no more problematic than his rising cable bill, actually showed up at the scene, since he was a friend of the family. The city was shocked. Not by the murder -- those happen with alarming frequency -- but by His Invisibleness' appearing to care.

Yet the paper soon faced a backlash from black readers. Darcy, never a master of nuance, had drawn the girl in Buckwheat fashion. And cartooning about the death of a 12-year-old is bound to be incendiary.

Then again, everyone looks like a rube in the hands of a cartoonist. More to the point: Darcy was absolutely right. Has Jackson ever shown concern about a slaying before?

But by that afternoon, activist Art McKoy had called a press conference to announce a PD protest. "It was the most distasteful cartoon that could have been placed on the editorial page," he says. "It was disgusting. Journalism at its worst."

Soon, editorial-page chief Brent Larkin was in full contrition: "We apologize to those who are offended by it . . . When a significant number of people take a cartoon the wrong way, you wish you had it to do over."

But the boss' back-tracking didn't play well with Darcy. "That's too bad," he says. "Brent enthusiastically chose the cartoon" out of a batch of four or five sketches. And the girl wasn't meant to be Cookie.

"That's any kid in Cleveland right now. What I'm sorry about is that it's not exaggeration for a Cleveland kid to wear a T-shirt that says 'Don't shoot me.' Cartoons exaggerate a lot of things, but this isn't too much of an exaggeration. I'm sorry that Mayor Jackson only seems to speak out when it's a family friend of a victim of a crime."

Forgive The PD for feeling defensive these days. In a letter last month, a National Association of Black Journalists leader criticized the paper for its poor minority-hiring record, and for adding another white sports columnist in heavyweight Terry Pluto ["The PD's Racist?" First Punch, August 29].

Billy Morris sucketh not
Two weeks ago, Punch brought you the tale of aspiring soul singer Ce-Cee, winner of the Cleveland Idol contest at Lakewood's Hi-Fi Club, which is owned by former Warrant guitarist Billy Morris ["First Punch," August 29].

Sadly, Ce-Cee was stiffed on her prizes, which included a paid trip to Philadelphia for the American Idol tryouts. Worse, Morris wouldn't return her calls.

Our umpire's initial ruling: Billy Morris sucks.

But now comes a challenge to the call. Billy claims Akron promoter Kim Diamond was responsible for the competition and prizes, not him. When turnout at the Idol nights proved thinner than a Sam Fulwood book signing, Morris says Diamond ran out on the bill -- and stiffed Billy on an impressive bar tab as well. "I never saw her again," says Morris. "That girl Ce-Cee -- unfortunately, she got in the middle of it."

Diamond, of course, counters that it's all Billy's fault. "Of course he's going to say that because he dropped the ball," she says. "He was the one who was supposed to cover the prizes."

As consolation, Diamond says she's booked Ce-Cee to sing the national anthem at some cage fighting events -- which is almost as good as American Idol, except you have to wear a raincoat to keep the flying blood and eyeballs off your dress.

Umpire's deliberation: On one hand, Billy should have returned Ce-Cee's calls. Where's your heart, pal? But Diamond also committed the mortal sin of running out on a bar tab, a certain sign of moral deficiency.

Final ruling: We believe the Cherry Pie guy.

Billy Morris, you no longer suck.

Kim Diamond, you now officially suck.